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Annual planting is Friday at the Sanibel School

By Staff | Jan 27, 2016

Berdenna Thompson PHOTO PROVIDED

Ever since 1989, Sanibel has been celebrating Arbor Day with a planting of a tree on the island, which has honored an important historical or local figure.

This year’s service will be held where it’s always been – at the Sanibel School, Friday, Jan. 29. The program will start at 10 a.m. and the luncheon at 11 a.m.

Arbor Day’s roots nationally started April 10, 1872, after a journalist from Nebraska named J. Sterling Morton proposed a tree-planting holiday. It was estimated that more than one million trees were planted in Nebraska on that first Arbor Day and ever since then, millions of other trees have started their life on the holiday.

Arbor Day was officially proclaimed by Nebraska’s Gov. Robert W. Furnas on March 12, 1874 and the day itself was observed April 8, 1874.

In 1945, the Florida State Legislation designated the third Friday in January as the State Arbor Day.

In 1989, the City of Sanibel’s Vegetation Committee suggested the island to become Tree City USA, which was eventually passed by the City.

“Our goal has been to plant more trees, not kill them,” said Berdenna Thompson, who has chaired the Arbor Day committee for the last 25 years.

Thompson, who is 93 years old and has served on the Sanibel vegetation committee for many years, as well as volunteering at the SCCF, has overseen the last 25 Arbor Days on Sanibel.

The Arbor Day trees planted on Sanibel are from the SCCF Natural Landscape facility, as well as from the Historical Tree Nursery and the Lewis Phillips III Landscape Company.

The seedlings used in the Sanibel plantings are from trees of 100 or more years, as well. In parent tree for the 1992 seedling came from The Treaty Oak from Jacksonville, which was donated by the duPont family and the site for many Indian treaties.

“The Treaty Oak has been my favorite one planted here,” Thompson said.

This year’s honoree will be retiring Sanibel principal Barbra Von Harten, who has worked in that capacity for the last 19 years. The tree being planted will be a Slash Pine, and will join the other Arbor Day trees in front of the school.

“It really is an honor,” Von Harten said. “The day has a wonderful history and the kids love planting them. The students are very excited for the day and have been planning a nice program and will be singing several songs. I am looking forward to it.”

In 2001, the school had to clear land for its expansion, so several of the Arbor Day trees had to be transplanted over across San Cap Road on SCCF property in the Pick Preserve.

The trees from 1992-2001 were transplanted, while three trees from the years 1989-1991, could not be saved, since they were growing in between two buildings on the school grounds and could not be moved.

The Jan. 29 program will include songs from the Sanibel School students and a luncheon for students, guests and parents, starting at 11 a.m.